25 September 2020 The Irish Film & Television Network
Darklands star Judith Roddy talks with IFTN
04 Nov 2019 : Nathan Griffin
Judith Roddy as Bernie in Darklands.
We caught up with actor Judith Roddy (Derry Girls) to find out more about working with writer/director Mark O’Connor, taking on the role of Bernie and the importance of having strong female characters.

Darklands episode 5 airs tonight, Monday 4th November at 9 pm on Virgin Media One.  

Created by Mark O’Connor, Darklands is set amidst a gang war in a small Irish town and tells the story of Damien Dunne (O’Hara), a 16-year-old schoolboy with aspirations to become a professional MMA fighter whose life is turned upside down when his gang-affiliated brother, Wesley, goes missing after a drug deal goes wrong. With Wesley out of the picture, Damien begins to feel the pressure to step up as a provider for his family.

This series is produced by Parallel Films and Stalker Films for Virgin Media Television in association with Freemantle Media, Screen Ireland and the Broadcast Authority of Ireland.

Darklands has proven to be a hit with Irish audiences so far with 468,428 tuning into the debut episode earlier this month. Since then it has seen its audience grow from 355,724 (episode two) to 363,760 (episode three), while the fifth episode debuts tonight at 9 pm on Virgin Media One.  

IFTN journalist Nathan Griffin caught up with Judith to find out more about portraying her character, Bernie, and what we might expect in the coming episodes.

IFTN: How did you get involved in the project?

Judith: “Just the usual bit of a self-tape. I couldn't get over to Ireland for a meeting with Mark, so we just had a little Skype chat and that was it. That was it done and dusted. I flew over then and got on set and started working.”

IFTN: Whenever you saw the script first, what did you like about the story and your character?

Judith: “I was delighted because those kinds of parts are usually the male lead or the male figurehead. It's just really exciting to play something that's not the wife or the girlfriend or the lover. A part that you can start to just take up your own space, and play.”

IFTN: What was your approach to taking on the character of Bernie?

Judith: “I suppose that the conversations then begin with hair, costume, the writers and then if everyone just comes to an agreement of what sort of person she is or what you're trying to represent. Essentially as it is fictional, so we are creating something together. Once the sum of the parts are brought together, then you have something to play with onset, and then it just gets quite concentrated on set and off you go.”

IFTN: With Bernie's character, there seems to be a lot in her past that's going to present itself again. What can you tell me about that?

Judith: “Well, I suppose at any one moment, you're never playing the past, you're only playing what is happening right at that moment. Obviously everyone has their traits because of past events. I think this has made her quite severe. She does have an explosive streak. I suppose when the story comes out in the moments where she is explosive, where you just do your double-take and think, ‘Sorry, where did that come from?’ You find little threads then of backstory, of the reason why she behaves how she behaves. I suppose at any stage you don't want to just play someone who is one-dimensional. It's just where you've been brought to from past events, I guess, and just playing in the moment.”

IFTN: The show is written and directed by Mark O'Connor. Had you followed his work prior to this?

Judith: “I saw Cardboard Gangsters and thought it was fantastic. I thought it was really visceral and gutsy and honest, and really not pretty, which is a lovely thing to see, because so much of the things we watch are quite polished. It's nice to see a bit of raw edges around characters and productions. It just brings us bang up to date with modern Dublin City Center or just a naturalistic way of filming. I love watching that.”

IFTN: How was it to work with him on set?

Judith: “I mean, what a kind man. Willing to play, willing to change bits of script or re-block. For someone that's written something very hard-hitting, he's quite a gentleman, which is lovely. He's not driving home a macho energy into the production; he just allows that to surface, which I think is quite generous.”

IFTN: You touched on it there towards the start, but this role isn't the only strong female character that you have portrayed recently. You also played Ms. De Brun in Derry Girls as well, which was excellent. It must be really refreshing to get those parts?

Judith: “That's exactly what it is. It's refreshing because I've played a lot of parts where I'm always crying or I'm victimized or you're the other half. To get handed over parts like these, you just get to play. Again, it's not about driving home a certain sensibility of a character, it's just another thread of characters that are exciting and that you want to play. It's down to the writing because you go in and play what's written as well with a bit of grace hopefully…”

IFTN: You only feature in one episode in Derry Girls, but it's such a prominent and memorable part. What was it like working on that production?

Judith: “I think I got lucky because I was the first guest star of the second series and people knew that there were guest stars coming in. Obviously, the program already has a huge audience and it's a huge hit. I was very lucky in that way that I got to present myself in a certain way to a large amount of viewers straightaway. I was on a win-win. To be from Derry, I was a fan of the show anyway and my family loves it. I was definitely very, very up for it and privileged. I think Lisa's just one of the best.”

IFTN: What’s next for you?

Judith: “I have a movie coming out, a feature film called ‘Queens of Clue’, and I'm co-lead with an American actress called Dale Dickey. She's in True Blood and Breaking Bad and Winter's Bone. That's an Irish film actually, directed by Donald Forman. We've just finished that, so I'll be going into the studio to tidy up bits and pieces on that. I am also doing a production of Translations until the 18th of December in the Olivier, in the National Theater. We did a run with it last year and it sold out then. I think we're selling out this time around. I'm just having other meetings at the minute for other things and see what's on the table and let it play out.”

Darklands episode 5 airs tonight, Monday 4th November at 9 pm on Virgin Media One.  

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